Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Commo Check

By Melissa Boyle Mahle

A friend recently pointed out that the contact link had been broken between my website and my email inbox. My webmaster has assured me that it has been fixed and I can now receive your comments, queries and criticisms. Let ‘um rip!

After a refreshing Spring holiday, I am back in Washington seeing what the April showers will bring to the world of national security and intelligence. In all reality, it is quiet here in the sense that everyone is keeping their heads down focusing on the mission. I take that as a good sign from the intelligence world. The military is a different story.

The Revolt of the Generals is like living in a world of delayed reaction. The intelligence community revolted in 2003, screaming that the intelligence on Iraq was being cooked by the politicians and the politicized intelligence community management. Now the Generals are having their say, just now piping up on just how poorly Rumsfeld has run the war, dismissing the intelligence on the existence, let alone the nature, of the insurgency. Some critics are saying that the Generals are just trying to deflect blame from the military on our losses. Maybe, but that does not change the substance of their statements, i.e. that the civilian leadership has lost its listening ears because it is too ideological and the war enterprise is in jeopardy as a consequence.

Will Rumsfeld be run out? I doubt it. President Bush is very loyal to his lieutenants. He did not get rid of DCI Tenet after 9/11. He is still sticking by CIA Director Goss. Bush has set the standard of no accountability in this administration. It is hard to imagine that he would change that now.

IC Taking a Bit More Direction

DDNI Hayden has informed us on the progress the IC is making towards integration and coordination. Walter Pincus pokes a bit of fun at the ODNI by quoting the General on just how arduous the transformation process has been. Personally, I find the honesty refreshing. What comes out from the press conference that Hayden gave is how little force is being used to marshal the IC along. I was left with the impression of “herding” rather than “directing”. Perhaps herding is all you can expect when vast resources lay outside of the DNI’s control.

Intelligence Office Gives Progress Report
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2006; A11

The 16 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community are "taking a bit more direction" from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, created last year to oversee and coordinate their work, and criticism of the new agency in Congress and elsewhere is "more about velocity and not about direction," its second-in-command, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, said yesterday.

"I have confidence in this enterprise," said Hayden, the deputy director of national intelligence, who met with reporters in an unusual, on-the-record, two-hour session with eight of his senior associates to discuss the agency's first year.

After the intelligence failures over the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, Congress created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, now held by John D. Negroponte, to be the president's principal intelligence adviser. The office was charged with supervising the intelligence budget, ensuring that agencies coordinate their activities and share information, and ensuring that reports to policymakers and Congress are objective and timely.

Although most of the reporters focused their questions on Iran's nuclear program, Hayden and his team wanted to discuss the processes they have established and to answer criticisms that the office's growing staff has become a new layer of bureaucracy that slows intelligence decision making.

Hayden said the office is coordinating the various agencies, not sending orders down. He said its role is more like that of a coach on the sidelines of a soccer game than that of a football quarterback calling the plays. But one senior intelligence official, told of Hayden's metaphor, said, "In children's soccer, all the kids run to the ball, and that's somewhat like what is still going on in the community."

Hayden and his colleagues made it clear that they believe their intelligence on Iran's nuclear program reflects the lessons learned from Iraq, including being clear about the reliability of sources and encouraging skepticism about other analysts' views.

They repeated their belief that Tehran is years away from having nuclear weapons capability and said they are awaiting confirmation of Iran's claim this week that it had successfully enriched uranium. Kenneth C. Brill, director of the new National Counterproliferation Center, a division of the intelligence office, recalled that Iran had previously claimed to have multiple centrifuges for enrichment, and "that turned out to be a Potemkin village."

Patrick F. Kennedy, the director of management for the intelligence office, said its staff will have 1,539 members next year. Almost two-thirds of the current members are from staffs that the new office absorbed, and the number of new personnel is below the 500 authorized by Congress, Kennedy said.

Many staff members will come together for the first time next week when they move into offices on the top two floors of the new Defense Intelligence Agency office building at Bolling Air Force Base.

Thomas Fingar, who directs the office's analysis activities and is chairman of the National Intelligence Council, said there is new cooperation among analysts, collectors of intelligence and the teams of experts in various agencies in handling specific issues. He did not directly answer whether an analysis had been done of the impact of a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Asked about charges that Bush and other policymakers had misused intelligence in past public statements, Fingar said the "fact-checking exercise" involved in reviewing speeches has been "ratcheted up," but "throwing raspberries" -- criticism -- after public pronouncements is "not part of the job."

The officials said the intelligence office has established a National Intelligence Priorities Framework, a three-tiered listing by importance of about 30 intelligence targets, signed by President Bush. They did not provide the classified list but conceded that the top tier includes terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and China.

Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., the office's deputy in charge of "customer outcomes," said it was the first time a president had signed off on such a document. But several current and former senior intelligence officials said later that both the Clinton and first Bush administrations had similar prioritized lists of intelligence missions.

The officials described one previously unpublicized program that brings together the top ten or so senior science and technology experts in the bigger agencies to find ways to work on common problems. Describing efforts to break down barriers to cooperation, Eric C. Haseltine, who directs the intelligence office's science and technology section, said, "The boulder is moving."


Declassification Antics

The National Archives has admitted to a poor decision on secretly permitting the IC to withdraw declassified documents from the Archives and reclassify them. This is a step in the right direction. Now, we need to address what is driving the reclassification. The CIA opposed the mandatory classification law from the very beginning, fought in court against it and when faced with losing the case, conceded. Once the spot light was off, the CIA ran a secret op to get its way, re-classification. This is typical CIA action, fall back rather than lose a court case and set a negative precedence and then do an end run when nobody is looking. This is how the CIA treated declassification of the intelligence budget in the 1990s.

What confuses me is a statement in the below article to the effect that the CIA first tried to create archival chaos (that must have driven the librarians bonkers) by mixing up the documents so that they could not be retrieved. Why the National Archives would respond to such behavior by agreeing to secretly withdraw the information escapes me. If I were a librarian, I would just throw the offenders out of the library, not the documents.

Archives Pledges to End Secret Agreements
By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 18, 2006; A04

The National Archives will no longer enter into secret agreements with federal agencies that want to withdraw records from public access on Archives shelves and will do more to disclose when documents are removed for national security reasons.

The new policy cannot guarantee full disclosure, however, because in some cases federal regulations limit the Archives' ability to reveal which agency is reviewing records and why, said Susan Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Archives.

"What we're striving for is transparency here on our part," Cooper said. "We can't control the agencies."

Allen Weinstein, the archivist of the United States, announced the policy change yesterday after the release of a second secret classified memorandum, this one between the CIA and the Archives. In it Archives officials agreed in 2001 to conceal official CIA efforts to withdraw thousands of historical documents from the Archives, even though the records had been declassified.

The memo, similar to a 2002 agreement with the Air Force, spelled out procedures the CIA and Archives staff would follow in withdrawing records that the CIA believed may have been improperly declassified. In a background paper yesterday, Archives officials said they sought that agreement because a CIA and State Department review of 56 boxes in 1999 "resulted in a significant mishandling of the records, such that the order of the documents in many boxes was lost."

In return for stricter handling, however, the Archives agreed to help the CIA and the Air Force keep the public in the dark. That was a mistake, said Weinstein, who became the archivist in 2005.

"Classified agreements are the antithesis of our reason for being," he said in a written statement yesterday. ". . . If records must be removed for reasons of national security, the American people will always, at the very least, know when it occurs and how many records are affected."

Independent historian Matthew M. Aid uncovered the reclassification program last summer when his requests for formerly available documents were delayed or denied. In February, the Archives acknowledged that about 9,500 records totaling more than 55,000 pages had been withdrawn and reclassified as secret since 1999.

The program dates to the Clinton administration, when the CIA and other agencies began recalling documents they believed were improperly released under a 1995 executive order requiring declassification of many historical records at least 25 years old. The pace of removals picked up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Last month Weinstein imposed a moratorium on withdrawing documents until Archives officials complete an audit of the removed material. Results are expected April 26.

One possible change, Cooper said, is a central tracking system that would include more detailed notices in the Archives files to indicate whether a document had been removed for national security reasons. But the executive order governing the review of such documents permits agencies to conceal their identities without the Archives' consent if revealing them could pose a threat to national security, she said.

"There is some wiggle room for us here, but not a lot," she said.

Nevertheless, the Archives' decision to shun secret agreements is a step forward, said Thomas S. Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research library in Washington. "For the National Archives to go into cahoots with the CIA and Air Force to mislead researchers about what was going on was over the top, and a strong signal of a secrecy system that is genuinely broken," he said.

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